Each year, Gaylord hotels wow guests from all over the country with their incredible and impeccable ice displays. Each of its four resorts becomes home to 2 million pounds of ice bricks, expertly sculpted by a total of 160 artisans from Harbin, China.
If you’ve never been, ICE! will change how you see Christmas decorations. Each year the themes rotate between Gaylord properties, with new themes being added. This year, the Gaylord Resorts outside of Washington, D.C. and Dallas featured Frosty the Snowman, Nashville was home to ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, and in Kissimmee, I was treated to scenes from my very favorite Christmas story, The Nutcracker.
To keep all those blocks looking pristine, you’ve got to bundle up a bit. Before entering, everyone is given a full-length hooded parka that works really nicely to keep the cold out. As long as you’re wearing pants and closed-toe shoes, you should be able to stand the cold long enough to see the whole exhibit…although because I am in Florida, there definitely were a few people braving it in shorts. The first time through, I was wearing a dress and tights (oops) and my legs were a bit numb by the end.
The story of The Nutcracker lends itself nicely to being told in the elegant beauty of ice – my personal favorites were the graceful sugarplum fairy ballerinas. Meanwhile, the bold colored ice works perfectly in accentuating the nutcrackers’ features. Other highlights include:
- The Frostbite Factory, where you will learn about how the exhibit is created and you can see a live demonstration of an artist carving an ice sculpture.
- 2 20-foot tall ice slides (the only ice you’re allowed to touch)
- On the Blocks, the 21+ ice bar where you can try signature drinks poured through an ice luge
The most breathtaking room is the finale, found in all four ICE! exhibits. The final room features a full nativity scene, sculpted from slow-frozen purified water, which creates a crystal clear effect. It’s very lovely, and worth saving your camera battery for.
While you can’t touch the ice, you can take as many pictures as you want. Be warned, though – electronics and extreme temperatures do not mix. Your cell phone battery will drain quickly or will shut off completely before long. DSLRs will experience a fogging effect when you move between temperatures, but this should dissipate after a few moments.
ICE! doesn’t stop with the sculptures. Each location is slightly different in activities; Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee also featured Alpine Snow Tubing ($18.95 for 10 runs), gingerbread decorating with Gingy from Shrek (additional fee), photos with Santa, and free live stage shows in the evening.
Tips for Visiting
Tickets to ICE! are $28.99 for adults and $14.99 for children, though there are specials and group rates to be had. One perk of staying at Gaylord is that you get to skip quite a bit of the line leading to the coat pick-up and entering the exhibit. Plus, with the guest wristband you can enter any time and as many times as you’d like during your stay, while many tickets are tied to a specific reservation time.
As far as holiday attractions go, ICE! is on the pricier side. Parking is an additional $18, so come early and enjoy the musical shows, tree lighting ceremony, and walk the grounds to explore the different Floridian sections and find baby gators, snakes and tarpin to make it worth your while. Or, splurge on brunch, lunch, or dinner to have your parking validated at the resort.